LSFC’S all-conquering ‘Young Lions’ will be crowned league champions after a gritty away triumph at Old Albanians put them out of reach of all their rivals.
Victory over perennial opponents OAs means the u18S will proudly conclude their junior rugby careers ranked as a top flight side having claimed the Herts and Middx 2 title.
It’s their second title in three years and represents a magnificent achievement for a group that began their league rugby journey as U13s in lowly division five.
Sunday’s 12-3 win means the Young Lions are unbeaten in the league and sit eight points clear at the top – with a final game against bottom side Cheshunt to play next month.
In a year of highs, lows and an ever changing line-up, consistently solid defence has been the key to a successful league campaign in which only three tries have been conceded.
Following comfortable victories over Letchworth, Tring and Bishops Stortford and the withdrawal of Tabard and Fullerians, the OAs game was always destined to be the key clash.
Maturely led by classy fly half Taino Goveia, a Scottish side missing a handful of regulars began confidently, dominating possession and launching a series of sweeping advances.
Goveia and elegantly coiffured inside centre Dan Masters were determined to entertain and bamboozled the home defence with an array of looping wraparounds.
But it required the brute force and direct running of no8 Joachim Ridley-Barker to claim the first try. Taking a perfect line off a breakdown he accepted a short pass 12 metres out and blasted through three tacklers to score.
OAs responded with relentless assaults but Scottish defence held firm with flanker Andrew Conder, centre Richard Anderson and fullback Jonny Tolan remorseless in the tackle.
Repeated final pass inaccuracies and excessive suicidal individualism meant Scottish had only a 5-0 half time lead – a scant reward for some enterprising play.
The second half began with OAs on the attack again testing Scottish discipline. The tackling remained resolute but pressure inevitably led to penalties one of which was in kicking range allowing the home side to pull back to 5-3.
The key moment of the game came 15 minutes from time when following wave after wave of forward drives OAs were convinced they’d scored to snatch the lead. But as home fans celebrated prematurely the referee signalled ‘no try’ ruling that Young Lion Will Aris, playing out of position at flanker, had some how held up the ball carrier over the line.
There were further tests to come for Scottish as Dutch International prop Noah de Wild was yellow carded for ill-advisedly flattening the OAs 9 as he took a quick tap pen.
The 14-man Scottish defence continued to repel the home attack and after a breakaway led by Aris and Anderson the ball spun wide to left winger Ross Fraser who tiptoed past flailing defenders to score in the corner. Tom Hamm added the extras with a gorgeous touchline conversion.
With the score at 12-3 and de Wild back on Scottish controlled the final five minutes to claim victory and a richly deserved league title.
Young Lions (11/03/18) : Noah de Wild, Clem Harrison, Ollie Steafel, George Randall, Hamish Whitear, Will Aris, Andrew Conder, Joachim Ridley-Barker; Arun Watkins, Taino Goveia, Ross Fraser, Dan Masters, Richard Anderson, Tom Hamm, Jonny Tolan, Myles Amiyah-Dixon, Chong Lin Li, Tyler Fitzsimmons.
Watch out for our Young Lions end of season report, full squad list and hilarious pictures going back over 12 years on the website next month